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blessing in these Scriptures, and valued as such by the living themselves, we cannot suppose a greater judicial punishment, which it would be consistent with the divine justice to inflict, than to deprive an impenitent offender of a gift which he is habitually abusing. In human laws, the punishment of Death is deemed the severest which can be inflicted, consistent with the humanity of a civilized people; and, by the divine laws, under the Jewish Dispensation, it was reserved for the most atrocious offences. Criminals are generally disposed to submit to banishment, slavery, imprisonment, and to a great degree of corporeal suffering, that they may escape the horrors of dissolution. There is every reason to conclude, therefore, that the death which is denounced, as the wages of sin, implies annihilation, or eternal death, in opposition to that eternal life which is promised to the Righteous. This doctrine, they affirm, does not militate against the justice of God; for, as the best of created beings cannot be entitled to a perpetuity of existence, the wicked cannot possibly have any pretensions of right. They have manifested, by the whole tenour of their conduct, that they are unworthy to live; nor can they suffer an injustice, in being deprived of a blessing which they have abused.
To those who object, that it appears to be
inconsistent with the divine wisdom to destroy an innumerable multitude of beings, whose existence he is able to perpetuate, and for which man is apparently formed, they oppose an answer from analogy. They remark, that the Supreme Being does not, in other cases, bring to a state of perfection, every production of his hands, although it possess equal powers of nature. There is, through the whole of the animal and vegetable creation, a profusion of existence; but innumerable multitudes perish without arriving to a state of maturity. Numbers of blossoms fall from the trees, that once promised an abundance of fruit. Myriads of the smaller tribes of beings are swept off instantaneously, and in the most rapid succession. Not only animals innumerable, but a great majority of the human species die prematurely. But what is of greater authority to Christians, they maintain, that the Scriptures themselves forcibly inculcate the doctrine of annihilation respecting the Wicked; that the passages, in support of this doctrine, are very numerous, and as explicit as language can make them. If we adhere to the rule, from which no one has ever deviated without falling into errors, if we expect to find the truth seated in plain, current, intelligible language, and not in an arbitrary interpretation of occasional expressions and
metaphorical terms, death, perdition, destruction, must be the future punishment of the wicked, not an endless existence in absolute misery.
It has already been remarked, that the passages of Scripture promising eternal life to pious Christians, are innumerable; and eternal life is also promised to them in such a manner, as to suggest the idea, that it belongs to them exclusively. The natural inference is, that it cannot, in any sense, be applicable to the Wicked; nor is there a single passage in the Scriptures, which threatens an eternity of misery to the wicked, in terms equally explicit and unequivocal, with the eternity of bliss inherited by the righteous. Death, destruction, perdition, are the terms perpetually employed; which are not in the least calculated to suggest the idea of a conscious existence. "What fruits had ye of those things of which ye are now ashamed," writes the Apostle Paul to the Romans; "for the end of these things is death."* "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." For, when we were in the flesh, or carnally minded, the motions of sin which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth the fruits of death. To be carnally minded is death,
*Rom. vi. 24. † Rom. vi. 21, 23. + Ch. vii. 5.
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. "Sin, when finished, bringeth forth death," says
"Broad is the road that leadeth to destruc
tion."t "Destruction and misery are in their ways."+ "For many walk whose end is destruction."§ "When the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance of them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."||
"Be in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you, of salvation."¶ "They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in perdition and destruction."** St. Peter, attempting to shew the fallacy of the argument, that because the judgments of God are deferred, they will not be executed, adduced the incredulity of the Antediluvians, and the terrible consequences which followed, "whereby the world which then was, being overflowed with water, perished;" and he adds, "but the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word, are kept
* Ch. viii. 6. † Mat. vii. 3. Rom. ix. 2. § Phil. iii. 9. || 2 Thess. i. 2. ¶ Phil. i. 28. ** 1 Tim. iv. 9.
in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men ;-the Lord is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." What evidence can be adduced, that the Apostle, in this passage, employs the same words in two opposite senses; ascribing temporal destruction simply to the transgressions of the ancient world, and eternal misery to ungodly men under the gospel?
Such are the terms constantly used by the Apostolic writers, when they expostulate with the wicked. Nor can they be of a metaphorical import, expressive of a meaning directly contrary to the habitual usuage of them. For they could not have been understood, by the persons to whom they were addressed, in any other sense than that to which they were accustomed to apply the words death, destruction, perdition, perishing, &c. Not an individual among them could have supposed, that by the expression, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, that they equally imply an eternity of conscious existence, the one of misery, and the other of bliss. As the words Jarales, απώλεια, συνριμμα, ολεθρος, had never been applied to eternal duration by any Greek author, it is extravagant to imagine that the Apostles would have selected them, to express what might have